Moving into a care or nursing home may be a planned event and you and your family may be lucky enough to attend to everything necessary prior to the move. However, many of you may be faced with an emergency situation. A fall or a stroke may mean a period in hospital during which time it becomes clear that you or your relative cannot return to independent living. In other cases there may be an advance in dementia meaning that you or your relative cannot cope at home any longer.
A move from home may mean moving in with a relative or moving to a care or nursing home. In any event there will be a whole host of issues requiring attention:
House Insurance – if a house is to remain empty then most insurance companies will insure on the same terms for a month or two. However, thereafter the insurance will either fail entirely or will have restrictions placed upon it. Theft or malicious damage may not be covered and there are likely to be restrictions as to leaving water on and how often the property is inspected. It is therefore essential that an insurance certificate is obtained.
Council Tax – you should inform your local authority as to when the move took place. This should be done as soon as possible as there will be restrictions on the backdating of refunds. You should also check to make sure that a claim was made for a single person’s discount if relevant. Many elderly people can perhaps cope with sorting out payment for their council tax but don’t understand that they have to complete a form to obtain full discounts. In one case recently, I was able to demonstrate to the local authority there had not been anyone able to help our client to fill in her forms correctly, and that she was incapable of doing so herself, therefore a full rebate was given.
Water rates – even though the water may be left on, rather than draining down the system, the water board will usually put a stop on the account if the premises remain empty. Thus there will be no further charges. There may also be a rebate due if the house has been empty for some time. You should also determine what is to happen to the house telephone, is it to be disconnected to save further payments?
Most of us will have numerous standing orders and direct debits attached to our bank accounts. However, I bet we couldn’t name them all and some of them should have been stopped long ago. Quite often when I am dealing with bank accounts I notice a huge list of standing orders which can often add up to hundreds of pounds a month. If you or your relative need to pay for care home fees you will be looking to save money elsewhere. Is it necessary to be paying money to the likes of The Royal Mint, RSPCA, RSPB, The National Trust, The Orphaned Bear Society, The One Legged Donkey Society, you understand my point!
It will be necessary to ask the bank to stop all standing orders other than for essential items such as house insurance. Don’t forget to ask for a full list of all payments as some are paid only once a year and may not show up on a current statement. If you don’t have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place the bank will want to meet you to take instructions. Now might be a good time to appoint an attorney to manage your financial affairs. That way you will not have to meet the bank staff each time your relative needs to rearrange your finances.
Urgent attention must be given to payment of any care home fees. Who will manage the bills, which bank account will be used to pay the fees, who will check the statements from the care home? It may mean amalgamating a number of bank accounts to make the task easier.
Have you applied for all relevant state benefits such as Attendance Allowance? A social worker or Age UK can assist with this.
Finally, there is the issue of the family home. I have met people who live in care homes and who understandably do not wish to give up their own home. In one case a lady told me that she was working hard to get back to her own home; she had been in a nursing home for over two years. In all of that time her home had been empty and was deteriorating. Perhaps the property should be rented out? Should it be sold, if so who will deal with the sale? Who will deal with the huge task of clearing out the property?
If the property is to be sold then does the owner have sufficient mental capacity to deal with this? If not a Power of Attorney can be used. If there isn’t one in place then someone is going to have to apply to the Court of Protection to become a Deputy. Once a Deputy is appointed they can then deal with the sale.